The balance of power between Japan and China has tilted in favor of China. I'm not talking about disputed islands in the South China Sea but rather inside the minds of the best educated in the Asian region. China now outranks Japan in higher education, according to the recently released Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings 2015. Except for the University of Tokyo that remains the top ranked Asian university, there are now more top ranked universities in China (21) than in Japan (19). China's top two universities are Peking University at No. 4 and Tsinghua University No. 5, ahead of Kyoto University that is ranked No. 9.

I taught at Tsinghua University in Beijing and marveled at the level of English language competence. Students had English names to go along with their Chinese given names and they readily utilized English language media and scholarly journals.

Learning English was seen as a ticket to the world and Tsinghua had its own "English enthusiasts" club that featured old Hollywood movies. I was asked to vote for the best English written essay about "Roman Holiday" starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Not once did I sense that English was viewed as an import language or a threat to Chinese history and culture. It was an enhancer, not a burden, embraced for what it could do to advance the ambitions of the Chinese university students.